Video: An Octopus Mimics a Flounder

R. Hanlon

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Credit: R. Hanlon

The peacock flounder (Bothus lunctus) isn't the prettiest fish around, but that hasn't stopped the Caribbean octopus (Macrotritopus defillipi) from trying to look like it. When stationary, the octopus's drab color keeps it well camouflaged against the sandy seabed. But when foraging for food, it exposes itself to predators. As this video footage shows, the creature has evolved an imaginative solution. As it swims, the octopus wraps its arms around its body and adopts a style of movement remarkably similar to the peacock flounder, swimmimg a fixed distance from the rippled contours of the seabed in short bursts interspersed with perfect stillness. How this deters predators is not clear, but researchers reporting in this month's issue of The Biological Bulletin suspect smaller predators that could easily take a bite out of the soft-bodied octopus might balk at the idea of biting into a bony flatfish.